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Old 07-30-2002
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alaskan voyage

This is a summary of my recent 8 day trip through a portion of the inside passage just south of Juneau. I chartered a cabin on a boat called "WESTERN GRACE" The captain, John VanStrien and his wife Joanne were the hosts and provided are wonderful vacation for me and two others. The Vanstriens website is www.worldwidesailingadventures.com and I highly recommend visiting it. Now for the trip: Alaska is great. We left Auke Bay/Juneau on July 22 and sailed south for two
days to a fiord call Tracy Arm. This arm cut back into the interior for 24
miles and had two glaciers at its head. Sawyer and south Sawyer Glacier.
We motored up the fiord since sailing it was not possible. We manuevered
around icebergs, growlers (refrigerator and car size chunks of ice) and
pack ice most of the way until we came to within a 1/2 mile of so of the
glacier face where it met the water. The glacier would crack and groan with
thunderous booms for a while then grow silent. A few minutes later, chunks
of ice would fall into the sea with great noise and splash. Every now and
then a chunk the size of a house would fall off. And one one occassion, a
chunk the size of a 20 story building came down! Very exciting to watch.
Some of the bergs are the most beautiful shade of aqua blue while others are
almost purple. I think it has something to do with the pressure they are
under that determines their color. They are very mezmerizing. I hated to
leave that day but we had to get back out to an anchorage. The fiord was
too deep to anchor in. On average, the depth in the fiords was 300 ft plus
with some areas registering at 900 ft deep. The walls went almost straight
up to heights of 3000 ft to 4800 ft. Every mile or so an incredibly
beautiful waterfall would puncuate the face. Trees would grow where ever
they could get a foothold. Eagles were everywhere. Thick as crows around
the harbors. We saw whales on several occasions but rarely when we were
looking for them. They effectively eluded my camera except for one fleeting
moment of video and one still shot. I made a few hikes along the shore but going into the
forest was virtually impossible. The forests here are rain forests and very
impressive. The trees and brush are so thick you cannot make your way through them
unless you are VERY determined to do so. There is a moss about 3 ft thick
that grows over the entire forest floor. Trees that have fell down over one
another are soon covered with a moss that is very much like spaghnum moss.
This creates hollows underneath for den animals (BEARS). We did see a bear.
Fortunately, we were sitting at anchor one morning in TAKU harbor and
spotted him along the shore. We also caught a few fish, mainly flounder and
cod but I didn''t go to fish so I didn''t spend much time fishing. We did do some exciting sailing although we motored quite a bit due to contrary
winds or no wind at all. Our pace was slow and relaxed. Alaska is BIG country. What looks like a mile is usually 5
miles. A waterfall that looks a couple hundred feet in a picture is really
a couple thousand feet in reality. I was a little disappointed with the
weather though. Clouds and rain was the order of the day. We had sunshine
for a couple hours on a couple days. I really wanted to see the Northern
Lights again but we always had a cloud cover at night. It would normally
get dark around 10:00 pm and be daylight again around 4:00 am. very weird.
We found a wild blueberry patch and picked enough for Joanne (the captains
wife) to make a blueberry crumble cake. I also found a patch of raspberries
and ate my fill. some were as big as strawberries! You could usually find
evidence of bears (I swear, some must have been as large as a horse!) in the
patches so I kept a sharp ear and a watchful eye out. We also visited Ford''s Terror and Endicott Arm. We could not reach the glacier in Endicott due to the amount of ice blocking our course.
All in all it was a very relaxful trip. The worst part was after I had
left the boat and spent a day in Juneau. This place is tourist central.
Several cruise ships come into port every day and dump their passenger load
right downtown. Convienient walking distance to their souviner stores.
What a ripoff! The paper reports how many people hit the docks each day and
on Tuesday it was 11,900 customers (wallets). Not only are they buying souveniers, they
are going on helicopter rides, whale watching tours, tram rides, glacier
tours and town tours. There''s a jillion ways to spend your dollar when you
get to port. I don''t care for crowds. The shops do however have some
EXQUISITE artwork. Both paintings and native carvings in ivory, whale bone, baleen, soapstone, marble and wood. They are certainly proud of it. A
12" carving in ivory will run around $1000.00 It was pretty to look at. I
picked up some souveniers for my special people and got out of the circus as
quickly as possible.
Well, I''ve rattled on long enough so I will close.

Randy
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